Pleasanton Preps: Remembering ‘Dr. B’ George Baljevich, a Tri-Valley local sports legend | News
As I sat down to write that Saturday morning, I stared at my computer screen not knowing where to begin.
George “Dr. B” Baljevich was such an iconic figure in Pleasanton that he was locally as well known as John Madden. So writing about Dr B, who died aged 84 on Thursday May 12, was a daunting task.
Then it occurred to me – head to downtown Pleasanton, where Baljevich was often seen. And the place to start was obvious: Vic’s All Star Kitchen, a well-known breakfast and lunch spot where he had a menu item named after him.
As I enjoyed my “Dr. B” Omelet – Linguisa and Cheese – thoughts and memories came flooding back to my mind. I started telling stories to my wife and then to Vic’s owner, Laura Castro, who stopped to talk about Dr. B.
In many ways, Dr. B, who used the nickname because his last name was too hard for some to pronounce, was Pleasanton. He was always in town and was quick to visit anyone who approached, treating everyone like an old friend.
You recognized George instantly when you walked into a local restaurant or cafe. You also saw George driving that red Volkswagen around town.
He was so many different things to people (friend, mentor, former teacher, and colleague) that if you talk to 10 people, you’ll probably get 10 different stories on 10 different topics.
Dr. B was not just a sports personality. He was also there to help others with life’s problems. There are many stories of how he helped people through tough times. George has been instrumental in so many people’s lives, and it was great to hear some of those stories.
To me he was a friend, a mentor and a colleague, and being friends with George was by far the most important.
Here is an example of the type of person George was. When my father was sick – he passed away in August 2021 – he spent some time at the Pleasanton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. George stopped regularly to say hello. He didn’t know my dad, but they both knew each other, and when George visited other residents at the center, he made a point of stopping by my dad.
It meant a lot to my parents and me.
I challenge anyone to find anyone with a low opinion of George.
You won’t. It’s impossible.
You couldn’t run into George without having a smile on your face.
Since his passing, I’ve thought of all the good memories, but I’ve also cherished reading all the posts on social media recounting the memories of others.
There were stories about his teaching days, his training and his media personality, but mostly it was about what a great person George was.
Besides being a friend, my memories were grounded by the time we spent as colleagues.
For a few years it was an honor to sit alongside George and Ian Bartholomew in “Tri-Valley Sports Final” on local TV 30. The pleasure we had filming the local sports series – much of it at high school, with youth sports in the summer months – is something I will never forget.
If clips of all the shows we recorded ever surfaced, it would sell enough copies to fund the current version of the show. Every show made us cry filming laughing so hard.
Many Friday afternoons I’d head to the car with pangs of laughter and look forward to getting back to the newspaper office to share the stories with my colleagues.
On every show, we intentionally tried to make each other laugh while filming, and we usually came up with a word, we had to find a way into the show.
When that word was uttered, “cut” was usually called out by the director as the laughs became too much.
Many times my family and friends have hosted viewing parties to watch the show so I can tell the behind-the-scenes stories from the taping.
It was the start of the sports final and it was easily the glory years of the program. Along with George’s baby, “Let’s Talk Sports”, it’s the two who go to shows for the local sports community. We started having visitors showing up just to watch the recording. I know the control room staff looked forward to the entertainment every week.
Sometimes my kids came and every time they did George gave them a sports trading card – one of his trademarks – with a story about the athlete.
Initially I thought my kids were coming to see their dad tape a TV show, but then I realized they wanted to see George and get a card.
He meant as much to people, young and old.
I left the show a year after leaving the daily and just like newspaper coverage, local sports coverage took a hit.
After George was incredibly shown the door by the station and “Let’s Talk Sports” was taken off the air, the station personality went with him.
That’s because George was the personality of Tri-Valley Community Television.
Those close to George knew how much losing the streak meant. It devastated him.
While Bartholomew is probably the hardest working man I’ve known and fought for high school and local sports to be in the news, you lose an asset like Dr B, and you’re going to lose a lot of life because of the station.
Other than an occasional local high school football game, brilliantly advertised by Bartholomew, I never watch Channel 30 again.
You can’t replace a personality like Dr B.
People have mentioned to me many times that George’s legacy needs to be commemorated by cementing a tribute to the man.
Some have suggested naming a street or a sports facility after him. I work with the Alameda County Fair to have a race named after George because he often interviewed me at the track every year when the fair came to town.
But the only thought I had is one that will probably never come to fruition. I told my wife they should name the Museum on Main after George. Simply, George was a museum when it came to sports knowledge and was seen regularly on Main Street. And it is certainly a treasured keepsake from Pleasanton.
A perfect match, but that will never happen.
Would love to see one of Main Street’s first Saturdays declared “Dr. B Day” including a banner hanging from the arch in Pleasanton.
For those who have been privileged to have our lives enriched by knowing George, we don’t need a monument to remember Dr B – our memories will stay with us for the rest of our lives.
But he deserves, and is honestly owed by the town of Pleasanton, a tribute.
And when our time on Earth ends, we’ll be looking forward to reconnecting with Dr. B and the regular laughter will return, instead of just the memories.
Godspeed George and until we meet again.
Services for Dr. B are set for Saturday, May 28 at 10 a.m. at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Pleasanton. For those attending the service, there will be a celebration of life immediately following. Details will be communicated to the service.
Editor’s note: Dennis Miller is a sports editor for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact him about his Pleasanton Preps column, email [email protected]